Becoming a Product Leader is Product Management

Darlene Miranda, Vertical Head of Product at Sterling, shares how leadership teams can use product management best practices to guide decision-making and inspire their teams.

“I've been in product for a long time, even before it was called product,” says Darlene Miranda, who leads product for financial and business services teams at Sterling, which offers background screening and monitoring for companies.

After a number of years as an individual contributor on product teams, Darlene learned fairly early on how much she enjoys leading others, and she takes the responsibility seriously. As a product leader now, she has a lot of insight into the age old question: what makes for a successful leader?

According to Darlene, good leaders drive product strategy and growth, but they must also be active in their team’s growth as well, including defining how your product teams will work and communicating the team’s value and goals to the larger organization.

Being a product leader is “effectively two jobs,” she says. “People look to you for product guidance and definition, but they also look to you for guidance on how to grow and develop. It’s inherently an ambiguous role and you’re not going to have all the answers for your team, but they constantly look to you for clarity.”

Because of all the ambiguity in the job and product management discipline itself, soft skills, like natural curiosity, openness to change, and being comfortable with failure, will be incredibly useful for product leaders. As you transition to a product leader, Darlene suggests keeping the same experimentation mindset and willingness to learn that served you well as an individual contributor.

Darlene also has a passion for training, teaching, and mentoring. She encourages aspiring product managers and current product leaders to focus on and reinforce learning opportunities for their teams.

“To help our teams evolve, we need to help them get comfortable with the uncomfortable, which means that you have to develop the skill, too,” she says.

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about leadership, career advancement, training, and product growth.

Here are the highlights: 

  • The key differences between being an individual contributor and product leader (4:16)
  • How to encourage learning among team members (8:47)
  • Skills to develop and mindsets to adopt to be a successful leader (10:33)
  • Darlene’s advice for how to be a better mentor (13:50)
  • Best practices for practicing customer empathy (20:07)
  • How to navigate hiring external product executives a product manager (25:15)

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